A Good Interview and Interrogation Session Saves Time and Money

Effective investigation interviews can identify fraud suspects in less than half the time and half the cost of an undercover operation

Posted by Dawn Lomer in on June 11th, 2012

Helping federal agents and private investigators successfully master interview and interrogation techniques for fighting America’s toughest crimes has been the focus of my 40 years in federal law enforcement and the private sector leadership. I have found the distinctive art of investigation to be a proven and reliable solution to solving crimes in corporate America.

Using other investigative practices, such as undercover work within the company, may take as long as two months with costs running up to $70,000 without a guarantee the problem will be identified. A properly conducted interview and interrogation session has the potential of identifying fraud suspects in less than half the time and half the cost it would take for an undercover operation to come to the same conclusion.

Communication Skills for Investigations

A trucking company contacted us when its profits were not adding up to the work. While interviewing the company’s leadership before conducting the actual investigation, two of my investigators detected suspicious behavior from one of the executives. Within two hours of interviewing the executive, he admitted to taking $2 million from the company.

The skills to efficiently accomplish this sensitive task involve a host of acquired time-tested disciplines that come only by expertly mastering human communication skills, such as persuasive speaking, the psychology of verbal interaction, acute listening, confidence and extensive research and planning abilities.

Conducting a Sound Interview and Interrogation Session

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Any interview and interrogation session should begin with the investigator conducting comprehensive research of the company and understanding the overall nature of its business. Meet with the company’s top executives to gain their insights into the reason why profits are lower than expected despite an increase in productivity, and ask the following questions:

  • What is the nature of the fraud?
  • Does it involve the stealing of money, time or product?
  • Who or what department has the biggest opportunity to steal from the company?

With the answers from management, the investigation can proceed to the employees of the company with a firm knowledge of what type of questions to ask.

The body language, display of confidence in knowing the facts of the fraud activity, eye contact, professional introductions and seating arrangements of the two investigators are critical factors in an interview and interrogation session. Every detail must be thoughtfully considered in order to convince the subjects of the seriousness of the matter and the urgency to disclose the facts.

The Rare Art of Listening

In the interview and interrogation process, the key skill for exonerating the innocent and identifying the guilty is listening. The investigator must strive mentally to digest each answer from the subject and carefully analyze it before thinking about or formulating the next question. It’s a skill that is easier said than done and takes years of practice.

Documenting Evidence for Court

In the early days of my private investigation practice, I developed my own framework or preamble for drafting a statement or declaration containing the details of the interview or interrogation session. In addition to the basic how, what, when and where information, the document contains the subject’s identification information, the full content of the interview and the conclusion. It includes room for the subject to sign each page under the penalty of perjury that the content is true and correct. Today, I still find this to be an effective method of locking in the information given by the subject and preserving evidence for use in a court of law.

Expertly conducted interview and interrogation practices offer a cost-effective and expedient method of uncovering acts of fraud in corporate America. Regardless of the crime’s magnitude and complexity, it can be forced to unravel thanks to the fine-tuning and understanding of communication skills, psychology and presenting information that will stand in any court of law.

Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Managing Editor

Dawn Lomer is the managing editor at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.